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  1. #1

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    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by teribyrdie
    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?
    I would have to write for a few years, I guess....
    I generally agree with the rule: "You play what you learned ".

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by teribyrdie
    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?
    You just have to find the things that work together.
    My answer is buy a looper.
    About all keys, I would say yes if you played the saxophone, the piano, the trumpet, the flute... even the bass (open strings are very important).
    For the guitar... You move your hand and it's ok unless you want to play everything in an only one position, that's the right way to go.

    Another thought, jazz guitar is a guitar that doesn't want to be a guitar.
    Shapes and tricks are like tabs for me.
    Sorry for my thought I am not really a guitarist.

  5. #4

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    Do you want to be a jazz guitarist, or sound like one?

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Do you want to be a jazz guitarist, or sound like one?
    +1
    Great question.
    First, I would go to a jazz club where the guitarist is playing.

  7. #6

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    Well, no. It’s like talking. Knowing the words and proper grammar doesn’t make you a good speaker.

    Good players play what they hear inside and that will be a mix of what they’ve listened to, what they’ve practice, their mood and the musical context.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    +1
    Great question.
    First, I would go to a jazz club where the guitarist is playing.
    I’ve never been to a jazz club. Luckily there’s this thing called recordings

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    Well, no. It’s like talking. Knowing the words and proper grammar doesn’t make you a good speaker.

    Good players play what they hear inside and that will be a mix of what they’ve listened to, what they’ve practice, their mood and the musical context.
    I do not agree with that.
    Idea.
    To become a good player you must first learn "words and proper grammar".
    This is why specialized jazz music academies are also there.
    Surely you have heard how many brilliant musicians the Berklee College of Music has educated.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I’ve never been to a jazz club. Luckily there’s this thing called recordings
    I am devastated.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    I do not agree with that.
    Idea.
    To become a good player you must first learn "words and proper grammar".
    This is why specialized jazz music academies are also there.
    Surely you have heard how many brilliant musicians the Berklee College of Music has educated.
    Of course, but that’s the start not the goal.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    Of course, but that’s the start not the goal.
    I thought that the topic was about start ... that was my belief.

  13. #12

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    I’ll stick with the analogy. Goes without saying that you need to learn words and grammar to talk. But you need more than that to be able say what you mean and be interesting to listen to. Calling improv a bunch of licks and scales put together is like calling a good story a bunch of words strung together. It’s true, but also very far from the whole truth.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I’ve never been to a jazz club. Luckily there’s this thing called recordings
    So, what is your background ?

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lionelsax
    So, what is your background ?
    I’ve mostly lived in less populated places. Small towns in Sweden usually don’t have jazz clubs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to a few concerts/gigs.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I’ll stick with the analogy. Goes without saying that you need to learn words and grammar to talk. But you need more than that to be able say what you mean and be interesting to listen to. Calling improv a bunch of licks and scales put together is like calling a good story a bunch of words strung together. It’s true, but also very far from the whole truth.
    It all depends on the level of the performer or guitarist.
    In addition, one puts it all together brilliantly and the other ineptly.
    We have to learn it our whole life, it doesn't come by itself.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I’ve mostly lived in less populated places. Small towns in Sweden usually don’t have jazz clubs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to a few concerts/gigs.
    Is CD better than live concert for you?

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by teribyrdie
    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?
    Hi -- welcome to the Forum!

    Please let us know: your skill level as a guitarist and as a musician; your musical goals within the jazz realm; and if you're already working with a teacher -- then maybe we can have some more specific ideas for you!

    Enjoy!

    Marc

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    Is CD better than live concert for you?
    To experience music, no. To learn music, yes. I’m not talented enough to get by with only hearing stuff once, I need to listen many times and often also slow things down to expand my vocabulary.

    I mostly listen to music on Spotify. When I hear something I want to understand better or learn to play I record it with the screen recording tool in iPhone and open the video in Transcribe+ and make a slow loop. Some phrases/rhythms/fragments stick and some don’t.

  20. #19

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    Back to the original question OP has asked.

    IMHO it all comes down to what is in your mind.

    Make a simple test. Pick an easy standard (or blues), sing the head as much as you can, then try a scat solo (vocal solo). Record it on your phone or elsewhere.

    If you can't sing even a basic little solo (not talking Ella here) you should listen more to the style of music you want to play.

    If you CAN sing something you like, all you have to do is to learn playing it on your instrument.*

    Yes, there is complicated stuff later, lots of it. But this is the base without everything else doesn't really make too much sense.

    Just my humble opinion.


    * And learn more songs, and scales, and and and....

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by teribyrdie
    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?
    Improvisation is what it says, improvising. That is, to do or make something with whatever you have to hand.

    Actually, the word itself originally meant (from Latin improviso) 'unforeseen; not studied or prepared beforehand'. That doesn't mean we know nothing but rather everything we use, know, and practice beforehand comes out in the playing although it occurs on the spur of the moment. This is how we get those creative moments when something nice just 'happens'.

    So there's nothing wrong with learning some licks but things get a bit lame if they're just played blindly by rote. One should know how they're derived, why they work, and so on. But then, of course, with that understanding we can improvise beyond just licks, which is much better.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    To experience music, no. To learn music, yes. I’m not talented enough to get by with only hearing stuff once, I need to listen many times and often also slow things down to expand my vocabulary.

    I mostly listen to music on Spotify. When I hear something I want to understand better or learn to play I record it with the screen recording tool in iPhone and open the video in Transcribe+ and make a slow loop. Some phrases/rhythms/fragments stick and some don’t.
    +1
    I do exactly the same, only the music source is different.
    Tramscribe is a great tool.
    I use also Transcribe to slow down backing tracks/ex.Aebersold/ for practising.
    In addition, I have a whole wardrobe with jazz books.
    A colossal amount of jazz - educational materials.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1
    Improvisation is what it says, improvising. That is, to do or make something with whatever you have to hand.

    Actually, the word itself originally meant (from Latin improviso) 'unforeseen; not studied or prepared beforehand'. That doesn't mean we know nothing but rather everything we use, know, and practice beforehand comes out in the playing although it occurs on the spur of the moment. This is how we get those creative moments when something nice just 'happens'.

    So there's nothing wrong with learning some licks but things get a bit lame if they're just played blindly by rote. One should know how they're derived, why they work, and so on. But then, of course, with that understanding we can improvise beyond just licks, which is much better.
    Oh gosh, you know everything.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterson
    I’ll stick with the analogy. Goes without saying that you need to learn words and grammar to talk. But you need more than that to be able say what you mean and be interesting to listen to. Calling improv a bunch of licks and scales put together is like calling a good story a bunch of words strung together. It’s true, but also very far from the whole truth.
    Just to be clear, jazz language is not just scales, arpeggios and licks.

    1. If it were just scales an arpeggios, classical players would be ready to go!

    2. There is no universal or standard definition for the word “lick”. It simultaneously means everything and nothing.

    Further investigation is needed.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by teribyrdie
    I've asked a bunch of people about this, but the answer that I've gotten could be summed up as: improvisation is a bunch scale/arpeggio ideas and licks that you already know that you are rearranging and putting in the right places. Should I just try to learn a bunch of licks in all keys to become the ultimate improviser or what would you suggest?
    You’ve asked more than one question, or so it seems to me.

    1. Firstly, to the question posed in the thread title - Depending on what you mean by “made up”, the answer is 100%. In other words improvisation means “not pre-arranged or pre planned”. If “made up” means “invented” the answer is 0%. (Unless you’re horribly out of tune )

    2. The second question is a much bigger one. It can be re-phrased as “how does one approach learning the art of jazz improvisation?”.

    There are as many opinions on the answer to that question as there are jazzers, almost.

    One simple rule of thumb, which is subject to various interpretations is “imitate, assimilate, innovate”.

    As Pat Martino liked to say “welcome to the club”.

  26. #25

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    I could be wrong here... but I think there is also just a special something, a gift, a habit of mind, a bent of the imagination, but something mainly inborn, that has to be present for someone to be a good jazz improviser. I do think everyone can make music, everyone can improvise, but I have spent decades learning all the tips, tricks, etc. but in the moment, it all flees and I have about 4 licks I fall back on. It's like chess. You can know all the moves, all the rules, you can study the top 100 games in history, and do "chess problems" online all day... but sitting opposite an actual player, if you don't have the chess mindset, the chess mentality, you'll get demolished.

    Of course, someone can have the gift, the mindset, whatever, and without the skills, the knowledge of the instrument, the listening, obviously they will not develop their gift. But at the same time, you can't give yourself a gift that nature hasn't already given you. You can learn a lot, cultivate the skills, and be a non-train wreck improviser, but that special something is still needed.

    I speak as one who has decided that I just don't have that. I play this music because I love it, I love the guitar, and I actually like most of the jazz guitarists I've met, unlike horn players, I might add! But I have no illusions. I doubt I'll ever be anything more than a hack hobby player with really nice guitars. I hope I'm wrong, but so far, 35 years of trying at jazz, and a lifetime of playing (with) guitars, and it hasn't happened. So I learn great solos played by others, I try to learn a lot of tunes, become a good comp player, but soloing well, improvising memorably, just doesn't seem to be in the cards for me.

    I'm not making history, I'm just trying to make music.